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Early MRI Screening Can Predict Long-term MS Disability, Study Says

Routine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) screening of people with multiple sclerosis can predict long-term disease progression, a 15-year study reported.

Routine screening through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) can predict long-term disease progression — leading to more certainty and informing better treatment choices, a 15-year study reported.

The study, titled “Early imaging predictors of long-term outcomes in relapse-onset multiple sclerosis,” was published in the journal Brain. It was funded by the National MS Society.

Disease progression in MS is highly variable among patients due to differences in the rate of progression, and the irregular accumulation of physical and cognitive impairments. These variables make it difficult to predict long-term disability outcomes, the best course of treatment, and the risk of developing more progressive forms of MS.

MRI scans are routinely used to confirm an MS diagnosis by identifying lesions in the brain and spinal cord caused as a result of demyelination. Researchers now wondered if early MRI screening, immediately following a diagnosis of clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) — a neurologic episode that can progress to MS — can predict long-term outcomes.

To test this hypothesis, the researchers investigated early MRI predictors of key long-term outcomes in people after a CIS episode.

A total 166 patients with no previous history of neurological symptoms underwent MRI scans of their brains and full spinal cord within 3 months of CIS diagnosis as a baseline. MRI scans were also conducted after one year (in 135 patients), and three years (in 121 patients). Clinicians recorded the number of new lesions, and brain and spinal cord volumes.

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